EXIT of the DAY
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EXIT 5 on New Jersey Turnpike I-295 To: Burlington, New Jersey, and Mount Holly,New Jersey
A Christmas Gift of epic proportions: On a freezing Christmas day in 1776, if not for the contributions of some pre-teen Jersey Boys, America may never have won its freedom.
Mount Holly, New Jersey played a seminal role in securing General George Washington's first major victory against the British at the Battle of Trenton. That was the battle where Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the sleeping enemy. But let's rewind just a few days in the winter of 1776.
The year of 1776 was about to end badly since Washington had lost both the morale of his troops as well as lost every battle since the British had landed at Long Island. The British had chased the American Army across New Jersey to the Delaware River near Trenton. Christmas was approaching and typically, armies reduced their hostilities during the winter. Maintaining troops over cold, wet, and muddy winters was not easy. So over the course of centuries, most European Armies camped and waited out the long dark season.
The Hessians under the British stopped pursuing Washington and set up their winter quarters in and around Trenton, New Jersey. Meanwhile Washington made it look like his army was camping in Pennsylvania.
The broad Delaware River would provide a moat between the two armies preventing any easy attacks.
On December 17, 1776, Colonel Samuel Griffin of the Continental American Army slipped across the Delaware River with 600 untrained boys. He marched to Mount Holly, where he set up a few "3-pounder" artillery pieces on Iron Works Hill.
Moving up and down the line, they blasted away making more noise than damage. This was a decoy to draw away a portion of the main enemy army from their camp at Trenton.
It worked. Hessian commander Carl von Donop, was told that there were 3,000 American troops at Mount Holly. Two days before Christmas, December 23, 2,000 Hessians grudgingly decamped to Mount Holly. There they engaged in an artillery exchange, known as the Battle of Mount Holly.
Late Christmas Eve, the American boys slipped away having successfully divided the enemy's forces.
On Christmas Night,in the dead of night with the Hessians celebrating the holiday, George Washington crossed the Delaware in a daring surprise attack. After George Washington crossed, the fact that thousands of Hessian troops had been drawn to Mount Holly aided his success in the Battle of Trenton at dawn December 26.
A total surprise, the hung-over Hessians were caught asleep in their tents.
Washington's victory sparked America's fading morale. Arguably without the success of Trenton, Washington's Army would have lost the financial support of the Colonial Congress in Philadelphia as well as the moral support to fight from his bedraggled troops. Facing mass desertions, it would not have lasted the winter.
But without the heroism of some young patriots at Mount Holly, Freedom for America could have been lost forever.
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